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Pushing action on climate change up the corporate travel agenda

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Ian Sinderson, CEO of ATPI, shares how travel management companies can work to support travel managers to make informed, sustainable decisions.

Sustainable travel has been a hot topic within the industry for a while now, long before the Covid-19 pandemic. The global stay-at-home mandate cast a spotlight on sustainability and encouraged all businesses to consider their role in the climate crisis. With extreme weather events becoming a global phenomenon, sustainability can no longer be considered a second order item.

While aviation has always been highlighted as an emitter of carbon, it is now becoming clear that offsetting alone is not enough. The environmental impact of a trip needs to be considered at all stages of the travel buying process – not just after the fact. This is where a TMC can help with implementing new travel approval systems, along with providing all of the information needed to be able to make an informed decision. As a TMC operating within the corporate travel sphere, it is our duty to assist travel managers with making decisions that take into consideration the environmental impact. And where appropriate, sometimes even asking the question on whether travel is imperative to business operations – something TMCs are not often seen to be doing.

As we’re now beginning to see green shoots of corporate travel returning, in turn companies need to be setting their sights on making as little environmental impact as possible across all areas of operation. While this period of travel hiatus has been a great opportunity to take stock of procedures and to re-write policies, sustainability is being pushed up the corporate travel agenda. And there are many ways in which a TMC is able to help with these green changes.

Since sustainability is a broad term in any context, and every business is different, it must be tackled in bite-size pieces. The first – and most important – step is to collaborate. It’s important that both the company and its TMC understand how the business is currently tracking, and more so, where it would like to be. Keep your travelling people involved and provide them with the opportunity to contribute new ideas and approaches from their own lifestyles that may be valuable to your business. Then, work together to set clear goals and determine how your TMC partner can align with these targets and support with policies and approaches to help achieve and even exceed them.

A robust recipe for sustainability demands sustainable ingredients, so the next step is to review supply chains. At every stage, suppliers should strive to meet your greener vision and support your efforts. Consider those who utilise renewable energy, airlines with newer planes – which are more fuel efficient - rail operators who use greener fuels, and car hire companies with strong hybrid or electric vehicle fleets. When looking at your supply chain, include your TMC in this too and get to grips with their own approaches to reduce their environmental footprint.

Like most policies, there will always be room for improvement. We recommend regular reviews of your targets whenever a goal is met to see where further enhancements can be made. Innovative technology is forever evolving and can help to highlight where we could all be doing better. Policies should remain flexible enough to be able to implement any new options which may bring opportunities to achieve more. Potentially, within corporates, it is possible in the future that departments or even individual travellers could be provided with their own carbon footprint ‘budgets’, to highlight the need for choice and restraint in making travel-based decisions.

Information is key. While you can’t force someone’s hand to make a green travel choice, you can give them the knowledge and tools to make an informed decision. Essentially making it an easier decision to choose the more sustainable option. At ATPI, our booking technology allows travel managers to look at carbon emissions for different travel options, whilst also assessing fares and routes when in the planning stage. When weighing up booking options with sustainable travel in mind, access to the right facts and information could be the difference between travellers choosing to be sustainable, or not. Further encouraging travel managers to make decisions that are best for meeting sustainability goals.

Given the scale and ubiquity of climate change, we all have our own role to play in contributing to its mitigation – and TMCs are no exception. With a new operating environment, travel policies are being re-written. There’s no better time to push for action on climate change and to ensure this is integral to your policy as well. Your TMC partner will be able to help you ensure your approach to travel matches - and even sets new trends - for your company’s sustainability policy and provide you with the relevant information in order to achieve your goals.

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